early American history

  • Can Colonial Williamsburg Do Living History Better?

    Historian Karin Wulf argues that the leadership of Colonial Williamsburg has steered an effective course through the conflicting imperatives of nostalgia, heroic storytelling, and the harsh inequalities of the colonial era.   

  • Ned Blackhawk Unmakes the American Origin Story

    In "The Rediscovery of America" the historian presses for encounter, rather than discovery, to be the dominant theme of early American history. He explains here what can be gained by adopting this lens. 

  • Mythmaking in Manhattan: 1776 and Santa Claus

    by Benjamin L. Carp

    Contemporary New York elites downplayed the possibility that rebellious colonists set the Great Fire of New York in 1776; the same people were responsible for the modern myth of Santa Clause. The connections between the two are surprising. 

  • Counterfeiting for Freedom in Colonial America

    by Zachary Dorner

    A lively trade in "coining," the creation of false Spanish coins, reflected both the multinational colonization of North America and the hardships created by a constricted money supply in the British colonies. Though illegal, "bad money" made commerce and taxpaying possible for many colonials.

  • Early America's Complicated Relationship with Abortion Access

    The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade relied heavily on the argument that, in Justice Samuel Alito’s words, “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions.” Paul Solman takes a look at that history, as part of our continuing coverage of America after Roe.

  • Single Origin Stories Aren't Good History

    by Emily Sclafani

    Origin stories, whether of idealized liberty or racism as national original sin, tie the present to the past in ways that exclude the possibilities for change that existed then and exist now.

  • Who Can Claim to be the United States’ First University?

    by Tom McSweeney, Katharine Ello and Elsbeth O'Brien

    New documentary evidence shows that the College of William and Mary was chartered as a university in 1693, making it the first university in the colonies. The story reflects how the sectarian strife of England in the seventeenth century helped Anglican W&M and harmed Puritan Harvard. 

  • How Not to Read Bernard Bailyn

    by Asheesh Kapur Siddique

    Conservatives lionizing Bernard Bailyn for supporting libertarian interpretations of the nation's founding and valorizing the founders "aligns perfectly with the reactionary effort to cancel critically engaged understandings of the American past, but poorly with Bailyn’s own far more nuanced vision of historical practice."

  • Remembering John Murrin

    The early American historian passed away on May 2 after contracting coronavirus.

  • Women Also Know Washington

    by Lindsay Chervinsky

    The last decade has witnessed a noticeable uptick of works on Washington authored by women, with more to come in the pipeline.